Wrapping Up the Week

Wrapping Up the Week

It’s been another busy week in the world of tech with the focus on gaming, gadgets, patents, and security. This week saw a SWATting streamed over the Internet (no one was hurt, thankfully), a prospected rise in mobile and tablet gaming and game development, the continued problems of servers not patched for the Heartbleed vulnerability, hackers managing to divert an airplane as well as causing problems for PlayStation and Blizzard gamers, and Apple finding out that it can’t have everything it wants just because it really wants it.

All of these stories and more were covered in our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we will replay the highlights for you below!

That’s all for this week, everyone. Have a great holiday weekend and we’ll see you again next week!

Modern and Golden Age Entertainment

Modern and Golden Age Entertainment

For the past several years, Hollywood has been churning out reboot after reboot and sequel after sequel of some of their best-loved and most well-known golden age superhero films and series. Much commentary has been inked over whether this means that the Dreaded Specter of Online Piracy has slashed studio profits and subsequent budgets or if Hollywood has just run out of ideas. Or perhaps there’s a cultural nostalgia for the movies of yesteryear. This dearth of ideas could simply be a medium of storytelling running its course much like the epic poems of the Classical era being replaced by the mythopics of the Renaissance which were in turn replaced by the novels of the Romance era who have given way to the serials of the Space Age and are now being overtaken by eBooks. That’s not to say that a medium vanishes as it ages but that, instead, newer generations adapt or reinvent it as they find new ways to tell stories and new stories to tell in older ways.

The answer, when it comes, will not be simple or singular. However, it is clear that there is a lack of fresh ideas and willingness to experiment with storytelling in the mainstream movie and television entertainment industry. That’s sad because Hollywood was once the bastion of American storytelling experimentation and originality. Instead of doing everything the way it had been done on the stage, directors, writers, actors, and producers were unafraid to explore the medium of film and broadcast to see what worked. They were not afraid to fail.

Instead, they rely on re-telling “safe” stories from years past. One begins to wonder if there will be a new generation of Gene Roddenberries, George Lucases, Stephen Spielbergs, or Luc Bessons who aren’t afraid to push the medium and the story. Or, will we continue to revisit the pulp comics and stories from the previous Golden Era instead of bringing about a new one ourselves?

Perhaps, however, the next generation of entertainment will come from a different quarter entirely: that of the video game industry.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday Recipes: Grilled Chicken

Wednesday Recipes: Grilled Chicken

This coming weekend is Labor Day weekend so we’re continuing our grilling specials with today’s recipes. The first is a very delicious grilled chicken breast recipe that goes over well with everyone regardless of age or region. The second recipe is also a great one that comes out very tender and juicy where the meat is literally falling right off the bones. Also, these recipes are very healthy for those of you who are watching your waist-lines and your cholesterol levels so you can whip these up and relax instead of worrying over how much sugar is in the barbeque sauce or whether or not those ribs are on your “yes” list!

Grilled Chicken with Basil Dressing

2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus 1/4 cup
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds, coarsely crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
3 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 large garlic clove
1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

Whisk 1/3 cup of oil, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, fennel seeds, 3/4 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a resalable plastic bag. Add the chicken and seal the bag. Massage the marinade into the chicken. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day, turning the chicken occasionally.

Meanwhile, blend the basil, garlic, lemon peel, remaining 1/4 cup lemon juice, 3/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a blender until smooth. Gradually blend in the remaining 1/3 cup oil. Season the basil sauce, to taste, with more salt and pepper, if desired.

Prepare the barbecue for medium-high heat or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Remove chicken from the marinade. Discard the marinade. Grill the chicken until just cooked through, about 8 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to serving plates, drizzle with the basil sauce and serve.

Read more at: The Food Network.

Drunk Chicken

1 (2 to 3 pound) whole chicken
1 (12 fluid ounce) can beer
5 tablespoons poultry seasoning
4 dashes liquid smoke flavoring
4 bay leaves
1 metal skewer

Rinse and dry the chicken. Remove excess fat and leave skin on. Lift skin from breast and thigh areas, slide bay leaves under skin. Coat chicken with poultry seasoning. Drink (or otherwise empty) half the can of beer, pour liquid smoke into remaining beer. Raise tab on beer can until it is in the straight up position. Insert beer can into chicken from the bottom until even with bottom of chicken. Insert skewer through the wing, ribs, tab on beer can, and out the opposite side. (this keeps the can from falling out the chicken).

Prepare grill: light the coals, and when they are ready, spread coals to form a ring around the outside edge of the grill. Place chicken in center standing up on can to cook. Cover and cook for two hours. Remove carefully from grill so as not to spill the contents of the can. Remove skewer and beer can, let chicken sit for fifteen minutes before cutting.

Read more at: All Recipes.

The Emmys and the Internet

The Emmys and the Internet

Last night saw the 2014 Emmy Awards Ceremony. Many of the shows that swept the awards are shows that have permeated the popular culture — Breaking Bad and The Big Bang Theory to name two. Others are still more niche shows with very specific — albeit dedicated — audiences such as Sherlock and American Horror Story. However, one thing stood out this year and was made conspicuous by its very absence.

Shows that rely heavily on Netflix did not take home any Emmys.

Last year, the Netflix series House of Cards won several awards, as did the hugely popular (and massively pirated) Game of Thrones. Other extremely popular series that have high Internet distribution via Netflix and iTunes such as Doctor Who, Downton Abbey, and Orange Is the New Black got scant, if any, mention. The nomination and selection process for these awards (and for many others) are controlled by the broadcast networks who are extremely hesitant to embrace the Internet as a distribution medium or to consider shows produced outside of their closed circle of studios.

And that is sad, really. There are many wonderful shows that are being made and viewed over services such as YouTube, iTunes, and Netflix. Amazon has even gotten into the game with their Amazon Originals. Some of these series are written, directed, and produced by people who have won Emmys, Tonys, Oscars, and more. It is becoming much more common for people, using their smart TVs, tablets, DVRs, computers, or even smartphones, to break away from the near-monopoly of the big broadcast and big cable companies in seeking entertainment.

Already, the Emmys and many other television and movie awards have become relatively unimportant to viewers or advertisers. If the various academies and associations behind these awards continue to insulate and isolate themselves from the Internet, it may not be long before the awards cease to have any meaning whatsoever. This has already begun to happen in the publishing industry with this year’s Hugo award and the kerfuffle that dominates the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genres between indie and Baen authors and the Big Five houses who control many of the literary awards committees. One would hope that the entertainment industry would be a bit more forward thinking lest it risk losing viewership even more than it already has as people turn their eyes — and their incomes — towards online entertainment.

What do you think? Do you think that the entertainment industry is falling behind the times? Or do you think that the Internet and online services still have a ways to go before they can really compete against the big studios? Let us know in the comments below!

Wrapping Up the Week

Wrapping Up the Week

Another Friday brings us to the close of yet another busy and interesting week in the world of technology and information. This week saw the continued deterioration of privacy and security as Germany revealed that it had spied on US diplomats, hackers were able to use exploits to gain information on 4.5 million patients of a hospital system, a woman was ordered to remove honeymoon photos from Facebook and much, much more.

All of these stories along with new announcements in gadgets, computers, gaming, and other aspects of geek culture, were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the high points for you below!

That’s it for this week, everyone. Have a great weekend and we will see you again next week!

What Is Your Favorite Old-Style Cartoon?

What Is Your Favorite Old-Style Cartoon?

It’s Throwback Thursday and, after hearing a conversation between some colleagues, I have been thinking about how today’s cartoon shows — while great and interesting and educational for young children — don’t seem to hold a candle to the cartoon shows I watched growing up back in the 1980s. That’s not to say that the cartoons I was watching were new in the 1980s — no. Though I did see my share of G.I. Joe, The Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Smurfs, and others, the vast majority of my cartoon-watching was from the Golden Era.

That’s right, people. I spent many hours stretched out in front of the television, my head propped up with my hands, happily watching Looney Tunes. Marvin the Martian is my all-time favorite character but the cartoons I loved to watch the most were the ones featuring Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner. At the time, I enjoyed them because they were hilarious. Poor Wile. E. Coyote never could catch that roadrunner but he never gave up and he always had a new ingenious plan to make the next attempt a success. I loved the gadgets he built and the wacky things he’d try to catch the roadrunner. At the ripe age of three, I’m told that I announced that I wanted to go and work for Acme when I grew up so I could make something to help catch the roadrunner. I do remember building (or attempting to build, rather) an elaborate Rube Goldberg machine that was supposed to 1) keep my younger brother from following me around and 2) dust the shelves in my room. The design was definitely inspired by a mixture of Mousetrap and the Acme devices. However, the creativity of my plans did little to keep me out of trouble when my parents saw the fruits of my efforts which, apparently, “made my room look like a pig sty” according to my mother.

These days, when I watch so many cartoons with my little cousins, I wonder when cartoons became so preachy and boring and if kids will ever rediscover the simple and hilarious gags from geniuses like Tex Avery and Chuck Jones or if they’ll be turned off cartoons entirely when they get old enough to resent being spoken down to or told what to think and why instead of being given an almost blank desert canvas to paint their own ideas about how they might capture that silly old roadrunner.

What was your favorite cartoon growing up? Let us know in the comments below!

Wednesday Recipes: Italian Edition

Wednesday Recipes: Italian Edition

It’s been a while since we saw some good Italian dishes posted here. So, for this week’s recipes, we went out and tracked down a couple of great ones to share with you. Italian foods are always a smorgasbord of spices and flavors so be certain to give these a try the next time you’re having guests over. Everyone loves Italian and, with Italian, there’s something for everyone to love!

Grandma’s Focaccia: Baraise Style

4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup reserved potato water
2 pounds all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 (0.6 ounce) cake compressed fresh yeast
1 (29 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 (2 ounce) can anchovy fillets, chopped
Dried oregano to taste

Place potatoes in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and cook until tender but firm, about 15 minutes. When the potatoes are done, remove from heat, and drain, reserving one cup of potato water. Pour the flour and 1 tablespoon of salt out onto a clean dry surface. Make a well in the center, and use a ricer to rice the potatoes into the center. Knead the flour and potatoes together as best you can, and then make another well in the center. Dissolve the yeast in the potato water, then pour the mixture into the well. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth, and no longer sticky.

Divide the dough into halves, and form into balls. Flour heavily, and cover with a few towels to prevent drafts. Let the dough rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Coat two large cookie sheets with olive oil.

Press the dough out evenly onto the pan. Press indentations into the sheets with your fingers every couple of inches. Divide the can of tomatoes in half, and spread onto each sheet evenly. Place the onion and anchovies onto the sheets, and press in lightly. Sprinkle with salt and oregano to taste. Drizzle lightly with olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes in the preheated oven, or until bottom is browned. Let cool to room temperature, then cut into squares using a pizza wheel.

Italian Meatballs

3 pounds lean ground beef
5 tablespoons ground oregano
5 tablespoons dried parsley, crushed
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 (1 ounce) package dry onion soup mix
2 cups Italian-style dry bread crumbs
3 (28 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 10×15 inch jelly-roll pan. In a large mixing bowl, combine ground beef, oregano, parsley and garlic. Mix in onion soup mix and seasoned bread crumbs. Mix thoroughly. Using a 1 ounce scoop, scoop and shape the meat mixture into balls. Place in the prepared pan and bake in a preheated oven for 1 hour or until meatballs are browned and cooked through. In a large pot over high heat, bring the spaghetti sauce to a boil and add cooked meatballs. Reduce heat and simmer for 4 hours.

Have You Taken the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge?

If you’ve been hanging around the web at all this past week, you’ve no doubt seen (or at least heard of) the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge where people are challenged to dump a bucket of ice water over their heads and then challenge others to do the same with the underlying message being to help raise donations for ALS research (ALS is popularly called “Lou Gerhig’s disease”). Thus far, the Ice Bucket challenge has raised over $15 million dollars.

Obviously, it’s working.

Now, using celebrities (and, for the most part, the people participating in the Ice Bucket challenge have been celebrities) to raise awareness for a charity is nothing new. Many celebrities use their fame and fortune to help causes they find worthy by giving speeches, encouraging others to donate and/or volunteer, paying for television campaigns, asking that their production studios contribute, and many other things. However, what is new is the use of the Internet in recent years and the use of a viral video-style of spreading the word. In the past, videos requesting donations have generally followed the more traditional television format where the speaker is outlining the need for donations and the purpose of the charity itself. However, with the Ice Bucket challenge, the charity and the name of the campaign are mentioned, with maybe a brief explanation of what ALS is and what the drive is for, but the “meat” of the video is the person dousing themselves with ice water and then their reaction to it. That is what has helped this charity drive to go viral and to be shared across websites, social media, and more.

It has only been within the past few years that such a campaign could be possible. For this to work, many people need to have access to high-speed Internet connections that can stream video from services such as YouTube. They also need to have social media sites where sharing links to the video is easy to do and where each share reaches progressively more and more people. Video cameras also need to be widely available and relatively inexpensive and uncomplicated, allowing a novice to capture video that is clear and without too much camera-shake where the camera is being held by another human. These cameras also need to be able to transfer the video, in a usable but not overly-large file size and format, to a computer easily. The final thing that makes this challenge so successful is that it doesn’t ask for much of the participant. A bucket. Some ice. Some water. Normal gravity conditions. Those are all things that anyone can find for under $10. The humor of seeing another human being pouring ice-cold water over their head and their reaction to it is enough for anyone to want to share the video with their friends and family — especially if the celebrity in the video is one they especially like (such as, oh, Tom Hiddleston).

The Internet and the technological revolution have had many impacts on people’s lives and the way that business is conducted. Twenty years ago, such a charity drive would never have been dreamed of. However, today, not only can we watch these videos and learn more about how we can help bring an end to a dreadful disease, we can even donate from the comfort of our home without having to make a phone call or post a letter.

Technology. Isn’t it just awesome?

Wrapping Up the Week

Wrapping Up the Week

The end of an eventful week has finally come and we look forward to another week, albeit one with a bit less tragedy. On Monday, Robin Williams passed away in his home in California. The Internet has been filled with tributes to this great actor and comedian who will be sorely missed by all he left behind. This week has also been a big week for space news with the annual supermoon and news about the ESA Rosetta probe that is slated to land on a comet in order to transmit information back to Earth so we can better understand these solar citizens. Amazon and Hatchette are still at each other’s throats over eBook prices and DefCon 2014 took place with an emphasis on ways to secure one’s privacy from government snoops.

All of these stories and more were featured on our Twitter feed this week. However, if you’re not following us on Twitter then we’ll recap the highlights for you below.

That’s all for this week, everyone. Have a great weekend and see you again next week!

Shark Week: Diving Gear and Technology

Shark Week: Diving Gear and Technology

This week is Shark Week and to help join in the fun and science, we’re going to look into some of the gear, gadgets, and technology that go into most shark dives. Some of the equipment we’ll discuss is available on the market for consumers but we would like to stress that novice SCUBA divers and those who are not experienced in dealing with marine wildlife should not just jump in. Sharks are one of nature’s deadliest predators and they can out-swim even the fastest human being. If you’re planning your first shark dive, be certain you take along an expert!

1) Normal SCUBA gear — First on the list are the things anyone would take on a normal SCUBA dive: a wetsuit, fins, a face mask, snorkel, oxygen tanks, regulators, weights. All of these things can be rented at a dive shop.

2) Shark bite protection gear — This will either be a cage that the diver will be placed in or a chainmail suit worn over the wetsuit that will prevent the shark bite from being fatal. If you are going shark diving, then the shop or group running the dive should have these. The suit works by preventing the concentration of force from the shark’s teeth with the result that the diver escapes with bruises instead of worse.

3) Cameras — There’s no point in going shark diving if you’re not going to get some video or photos. Divers will want to look into purchasing or renting a camera capable of working at up to 60 feet underwater, that has controls that can be easily adjusted while wearing thick gloves, and has good built-in lighting with good manual controls. Photographing sharks can be tricky since their white underbellies make it very easy to over-expose them so get familiar with the camera you’ll be using ahead of time. You’ll want a lens with not too wide a range on it as wide-angle and “larger” lenses are not well-suited to shark photography. A 2-24mm or 17-35mm is best so long as it is fairly fast and has a maximum aperture of F2.8 to F4.

SCUBA diving is great fun and one of the best ways to see sharks. However, as any diver will tell you, safety is paramount even in a dive in a swimming pool. If you are planning to join a shark dive, make certain to do plenty of research ahead of time so that your dive is fun and safe!